Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation, for a finance director it can improve your life through increasing performance, focus and achievement, says Kevin O’Boyle.
Imagine you always had 10 seconds to think before reacting to what might seem like provocation – the road user who cuts in front; the child who breaks a cup; the partner who says something hurtful. Imagine having the capability to brush away the immediate irritation and negativity or being able to refuse that drink or chocolate bar because you recognise the physical cravings of your body that trigger the thoughts in your head. Mindfulness could help to achieve that and more.
The practice alone won’t actually make you behave or react any better or any worse, but it will give you the choice of how you act or react in each individual circumstance.
Mindfulness is not about meditation, as many would lead you to believe; it is about observing what is going on in your mind and your body, here and now. It is only with this heightened selfawareness that we can start to develop our innate capability of taking control of that large part of our day that we live internally, in our mind, but that creates action and reaction externally
Mental health issues are reaching crisis levels in some countries, with huge increases in rates of depression, eating disorders, addiction and suicides. We become anxious generally when we are in an inactive state – reflecting on the past or planning, anticipating or worrying about the future. Bringing the mind to focus on the active present consequently reduces our opportunity for anxiety.
Sometimes we may need to put more emphasis on the active physical present through engrossing ourselves in physical tasks such as exercise, gardening or doing something for someone else. This is primarily addressing the routine ups and downs that most of us experience in daily life, and is intended as an aid to enhance positive mental health. However, where people are experiencing longer term symptoms of mental health issues they should seek the guidance of mental health professionals, some of whom now use mindfulness as part of a range of therapies.
Through mindfulness it is possible to observe the welling up of emotions – the torment of anxiety; the flaring up of anger; the hurt of what someone is communicating to us – all of which have the potential to blind us to the reality of a situation. We describe ourselves as going on autopilot in many of these situations – discarding our normal sense of rationality, empathy and reasonableness for instant reactions, which in many cases we live to regret.
This is an extract from the Finance & Management Magazine, Issue 249, December 2016.